Saturday, 31 December 2011

Fabric Woes

I just can't seem to pick fabric, it's so much more difficult than I thought!

As I mentioned, I want to make a small quilt for Hubby for our anniversary. We're having the living room decorated and it's beginning to look a bit more grown up now that we're replacing our first bits of furniture (bought as students or when we first lived together in a tiny flat.) At the minute, we have a bright pink fleece throw that keeps us warm when we're watching TV. My parents bought it for me when I first went off to uni, and it's getting a bit tatty now, so I think I'll relegate it to the bedroom and try and make a replacement for Hubs.

I loved the idea of joining in with Lily's Quilts Dead Simple QAL as it seems very beginner friendly! However, I'm having trouble picking the fabric, it needs to mix well with the brown/teal-y colour scheme in the lounge and be quite boy-friendly (only comment from Hubs was "no pink!")

This is the Design Seeds pallette that I chose:

Then I bought these fabrics:

Kona in Chocolate, Khaki, Olive, Ivory and Teal

You can see the colour of our new sofa in the background. I like these tones, especially the teal blue, and they're very Scouty colours, so very approriate for us. I'm still not convinced though - are they the right tones, should I replace the green, do I need a print in there?? I then saw this gorgeous table runner, and am even more confused, as I think I like this even better!

Will have to think a bit harder about this before I start cutting I think (not that I can start sewing until I get round to buying a new pedal!)

PS - please excuse any faux pas in terms of QAL ettiquette - I've linked to everything so hope that's ok!

New Years Eve Resolutions

Happy NYE! I can't believe how quickly this year, and particularly this holiday, has flown.
I received some really thoughtful and beautiful gifts, including a hand knitted mug cosy and homemade sweets! My MIL also got me a bundle of fabric and buttons and beads which I loved!
I think our homemade gifts went down well too, even though I did have to hand finish them when the machine went puff.

Decorations made for a friend who couldn't find blue ornaments that he liked. In the rush, I didn't take any photos of the rest of the presents that I made - dafty!

Anyway, here are my aims and thoughts about the coming year - if I write them down here I've got more chance of keeping them!

1. Stop procrastinating and get the machine fixed!

2. Make something for myself, as everything I've made so far has been given away. I'm thinking about making a case for my kindle like this.

3. Make something for Hubby for our second wedding anniversary in April - hopefully a version of the Dead Simple QAL from

4. Have another go at a cushion and get the backing right this time! Thanks for the helpful suggestions last time to fix the bodge I made of my hexie panel cushion, the velcro did work.

5. Get nice camera so I can take decent pictures of my triumphs and disasters rather than using my phone!

I wonder how many of these I'll be able to actually tick off in a years time....
Oh and I should add in resolution number 6 which gets made every year and never kept - get fit and get some work-life balance!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Christmas Presents Prep Continued!

I've been busy in the last few weeks starting all the Christmas presents.

So far we've got 7 jars of marmalade, with a sneaky bit of whisky for all our lovely grandmas and the other wonderful older ladies that we know. The chili vodka and mulled vodka are infusing (that's the best word that I can come up with, brewing doesn't seem right!) and the ingredients for shortbread biscuits, stollen and chocolate fudge are sitting in the cupboard waiting for the right moments.

I've been busy with the sewing machine and needle too. I'm making two different types of ornaments, one made out of felt:

either made up off the top of my head or using the tutorial here

The other type is a small cross stitch which I'm going to put in a mini embroidery hoop:

The big problem is my best friend's cushion. The front is finished and I'm really pleased (except for the little bits where the tension went a bit wonky, but I didn't realise until it was all too late!)

However, the back hasn't gone quite so well! I tried to do an envelope back, but I think I misunderstood (or mismeasured, or was just being stupid!) when I cut out the material. The actual sewing of it went really well, and I learnt so much from doing it, but the back seems really gape-y now:

Any suggestions for how to fix it? I was thinking that I could make some tags like those on duffel coats and attach these to the right side, then add some little pearl buttons on the left to hold it closed - would that work?

T-15 days - can't wait!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Less stressful = more successful!

After I calmed down, my attempts at creating a mug rug worked slightly better!

I can't figure out how to rotate the picture, but at least it looks better than it did (and it looks better than the back)! I think the thread was too thick, as it kept catching at the back and looks thicker than my other thread. I hand sewed the bias tape on in the end, which was much easier.

I've also started on another cushion after the success of the last present. I hand stitched the hexies, then used the machine to add borders. Had a slight problem with the order - must remember to put the shorter pieces on first, or it's much harder to add on the longer edges! You may be able to see the pins still holding on one of the edges.

I also needed to finish off the next baby cushion, as my nephew Harry has now arrived!

I'm going to stitch the letters on using the blue thread, then I was thinking about stitching an outline in yellow around the whole name? I decided to add a label too this time, as it's not such a rush job. Can't wait to go see him with this!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Pride comes before....

After a very stressful few days in work and at home, I decided to spend today getting on with making a few more Christmas presents, including a coaster with some gorgeous Michael Miller fabric.

So far today:

I couldn't remember how to thread the bobbin. Admittedly, I've only had to do it three times before, but I probably should have remembered more! Eventually solved that, then...

I couldn't seem to sew straight lines! I kept getting bunches of thread underneath the fabric, and the seam ripper got LOTS of exercise this afternoon.

I cut the wadding to the wrong size.

The bias tape got caught in the machine and ripped.

And finally - I've just snapped the needle and can't remember how to replace it!

I think that I really need to stop at this point and carry on in a few days when I'm less frustrated with other things. Usually I love playing with crafty things when I'm stressed, but maybe I'm not yet competent enough to use the machine when wound up!!

As a side note - I know a bad workman blames his tools, but could it have been the thread? I was using Guttermans thread from Hobbycraft, which is identical to the other threads I've used - but maybe when I picked up the new colour it was a different composition? Any advice will be gratefully received!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Sewing Machine has landed!

I have a sewing machine!!!! It's a 1960s Singer in a baby blue case - I'm in love!

The first project that I've ever made with a sewing machine:

After a bit of tuition from a lovely friend (in return for dinner and Fizzy), I made a coaster and a mug rug for a birthday present.

Now I just need to be able to work the machine by myself - I nearly threw the bobbin out of the window last night in frustration!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Christmas prep starts here!

A quick pic of my first attempt at an Xmas decoration! I used the tutorial on the brilliant bugsandfishes blog and stuck to a blue/silver theme as requested by our friend Tom.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Welcome to the World!

Baby number 1 has been born!

She arrived last week, late on Wednesday night, as we were driving home on the Friday for a wedding. Luckily, I had pretty much finished her present, just needed to add the finishing touches.

I've been working on this, on and off, since April, and this was the first crafty project I've really attempted since I was a Guide. I knew I wanted to make baby (the flavour was a suprise!) a present, but I wasn't sure what I was capable of. My lovely friend Charlie suggested English Paper Piecing, I remembered my Ebay password and off I went.

Admittedly, my first effort was less than commendable - my lovely MIL now has a bookmark and mat for her dressing table which she kindly pretended to like!

Attempt no. 2 went much better thankfully. I found various gender-neutral fabrics on Ebay as well as paper templates, and bought a cream cushion and new duck-down cushion pad from Dunelm. I decided to decorate with two small "flowers" on the front of the cushion, and one larger one on the back. There are some great tutorials to explain how to make these, particularly here and on Sew Mama Sew too.

Once I finished my little "flowers", I lightly stitched them onto the empty cushion cover. I'm making two of these, so stopped at this point and repeated for the second cushion (this took much, much longer to do than it did to type!). I also ironed them a LOT which is not my favourite of jobs by a long stretch, as you can tell from the creases.

This was where I was up to when we got the call on Wednesday night to say that baby was here!

I then had a mad rush to finish before we went up early on Friday morning, especially as my felt (again from the Felt Fairy on Ebay, excellent quality again) didn't arrive until Thursday morning as she arrived a little earlier than expected. I printed out her name in Copper at about size 200, then Hubby had the nice job of cutting out the letters (which he found was much easier to do using scissors - after he had found his craft knife -oops)

Hubby practicing his Beaver Leader craft skills - look at that concentration!

Next step was to stitch the letters on! I chose quite bright colours with a fair bit of pink and purple. The letters were all stitched on with yellow thread except the middle "a" which is pink.

The finished article, front and back!

Now I just need to decide what to do on the next one to make it a little different - we should have a bit more time between birth and visit next time so I might ask a friend with an embroidery machine to do something with the date of birth/weight.

Unfortunately we couldn't go and see the little poppet, so her present has been left with the proudest Grandma in the world! Hope she likes it.......

Busy Gardening!

The garden has been looking amazing for the past few weeks, all this rain has made up for the drought earlier in the year.

The sweet peas have gone absolutely crazy - I should have paid more attention and tried to tie them up quicker, as they'e spread about 4 foot over the border.

It doesn't show up well, but there were some beautiful bright pink flowers in there!

I also picked the last of the rhubarb (left 2 sticks on) and the courgettes last week - no more big yellow flowers! We did try deep-frying a few of the small ones which worked really well.

The potatoes are lovely, and took such little effort to grow especially as I used potato grow bags. That's definitely one to try again next year. The beans were also extremely good, I used a Jamie Oliver recipe to cook them down - must remember that I put the leftovers in the freezer.

Now we've got lots of wasps round the end of the garden, just when I want to prune and tidy up, and deal with the bindweed that inevitably comes over from next door! Hope the little blighters buzz off soon....

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Red Gooseberry Jam

My lovely in-laws had a glut of gooseberries at home, so kindly gave us a kilo of deliciously bright red gooseberries - there were initially a few more, but after a few days forgotten in the back of Hubby's car, they weren't worth using!

I used a couple of different recipes from the Pickle and Preserve blog and Delicious Magazine - I ended up using 1kilo of gooseberries, 200ml water, 250ml elderflower cordial and 1k sugar. I added a little less sugar than suggested, as the gooseberries were so ripe.

The cooked down gooseberries made such a lovely coloured mush!

After adding the sugar, I boiled the jam down - my new jam thermometer came in very handy at this point. It took 12 or so minutes to reach setting point - it still looked very watery but passed the wrinkle test.

I've now got 6 very full jam jars cooling in the kitchen - looking forward to my jam and toast tomorrow!

NB - Don't try and cook dinner on a tight schedule (Hubby had a meeting) at the same time - it'll just lead to more stress!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Babies and Presents

There seems to have been a bit of a baby-explosion within our circle of friends recently. I've been knocked out a bit by a viral infection, so have been making various presents as it doesn't require too much energy at one time!

So far, I've been working on a cross stitch and two cushions for the newborns, and also a present for hubby's cousin, who's just turned four (better late than never!)

I decided to try out some letters that I've been after on Ebay for a while, and this was a good excuse! This tutorial on the Felt Sew Good blog, and the Hobbycraft Ideas Library notes on a similar design (here) were really useful for helping me figure out how I wanted her present to look. The plan is to make five hearts, two as bookends, and three in the middle with her initials on. I'm adding ribbon to the top of each so that they can be hung up together in her room.

Progress so far:
Felt (from the_felt_fairy on Ebay, which is really good quality) has all been cut to size, using heart shaped templates that I printed from Google:

I've started the darker purple hearts that I'm planning on putting on each end of the chain:

These are the letters to spell out her initials:
Hopefully she'll like it  - this is the first time I've tried anything like this, and even had to learn how to do blanket stitch too (the guide here was excellent)!

Edit: the finished article!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Reading at the Minute....

Anyone who knows me well will know that the background to this site is apt - I read a lot. Our house is covered in piles of books despite the three huge Billy bookcases in the dining room and the two other bookcases in the spare room and the lounge!

Recently, I've been reading a quite a variety of different genres.

A friend recently mentioned how much she enjoyed reading Game of Thrones, and with all the hype surrounding the TV show and the fact that I know other friends have read them in the past, I decided to give them a go. Mum and Dad recently bought me a Kindle (obviously feeling very generous!) so I downloaded Game of Thrones, and off I went. In the last two months, I've devoured all the books, including the newest, Dances with Dragons.  I love the characters and the setting, and GRRM's take on this style of fantasy (i.e. absolutely brutal!) but I'm not convinced by his latest offering. Maybe a re-read after a few months to calm down - I won't say why to save spoilers, but OH MY GOD!!!!! - might change my mind.

As I've not been very well, I've been re-reading "comfort" books - lots of Chalet School and other Girl's Own type - not very taxing on the brain, but familiar and with a lovely sense of family and homiliness which is exactly what I needed.

I'm also still marching on with Les Mis (62% complete according to Kindle, but not suitable for reading when ill!) and Birdsong. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas has been in my bag as a "bus book" for about three weeks now, but I've still not cracked the covers....